Madrid – Statues, Tapas and Thieves…

     madrid,Spain,wanderlust   Mar 31, 2016    By

    As my Spanish trip loomed, I can’t say I was excited about Madrid. I had my bias against big cities, and I figured it would be more of the same…check out semi-cool museums while also watching out for robbers. More on both later…

    I picked Madrid as the ‘hub’ of the trip because of convenience. I’d been researching travel blogs, and found a great one, ‘Young Adventuress‘, that I used to plan the itinerary. We could start in Madrid, drive up north to wine country, veer west to Basque country, then come back down south and have a stress-free Spanish road trip. Overall it was a great plan…but all great plans have their hiccups.

    The Madrid airport is trash…really…this is a maze that I would rather not recount. I admit I mixed up the terminals, thus I didn’t meet my friends right away but the airport presented itself as a labyrinth whereas any meeting would be an adventure. This is a major hub for international flights, and I strongly suggest that they renovate their airport. I finally met up with my contacts and was off to downtown Madrid. I took the metro option, which was another mistake as there were three connections, so anyone with money should just book a taxi. When the time came to rent a car from the airport, I don’t recall ever waiting longer. For all the good vibes Europcar gave me on my trip to Albania, it went in the other direction here.

    We stayed at Hotel Liabeny, a nice hotel in the heart of Madrid. This was about a ten minute walk from the sights in the city, so it was definitely centrally located. Despite some issues initially, mostly due to miscommunication with booking.com, the hotel became one of the least argumentative aspects of Madrid. The city was surprisingly walkable, and we took advantage of this during our first day. We trekked through many main squares, Retiro Park, and saw the prime sites of Madrid. I’ve recently talked of Oslo being the city of statues, but Madrid is a close second.

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    The other views as we walked around Madrid were amazing as well…

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    I also loved the street music here…

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    For it being off season, there were quite a few street performers here. It annoyed me how aggressive they were when someone dared take a picture of them…holding their hand up and demanding money for the photo.

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    Either people weren’t being helpful, or no one we asked knew where the palace was…hard to believe the latter. After much walking we stumbled upon it…

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    I remember the tapas in Barcelona being better, but that didn’t stop us from partaking in the local cuisine. We started at Mercado de San Miguel, a crazy and crowded market that had tapas everywhere. This was an awesome place, but due to my vegetarian diet I was stuck eating asparagus…thankfully it was delectable! We found a place nearby, the ‘Taste Gallery’, that led us down a primrose path of pleasure…wine and tapas, great conversation…before we knew it, we were facing nightfall in Madrid. The always prevalent Irish pub was calling to us, and we succumbed to the temptation.

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    We indulged too much, which led to a not-so-surprising thievery. Madrid is one of the capitals of Europe for petty theft, and we experienced that. Travel advice…don’t get too comfortable…i.e. drunk and happy…at the bars around here. Whether it be Gypsies, struggling Spaniards with the poor economy, or whoever, there are always eyes upon you. My friend woke up to nothing…no phone, wallet, etc. The nightmare scenario was somewhat reduced when he found his phone, but when you lose your wallet in another country that’s a helluva lot of phone calls to set things right. Although we played detective and retraced our steps, not even Sherlock could’ve prevailed against the Madrid pickpocket.

    Onto the Prado Museum! We’ve all heard about one of the top museums in Europe, and we were further intrigued when the ‘free hours’ of 5-7 were advertised. This sounded like a great deal, but also to everyone else. We never ended up here, as the line was too long. Always book ahead of time…another lesson learned. After I took a shot of some great street art, we spent our last night at a Belgian bar. Our friend Stephanie knew one of the people there, so it was a grand time. When you’re in Spain, you’re in the land of lousy beer…so this was a nice respite from that…and the frites weren’t too bad, either.

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    Not as bad as I thought…but as we drove off to wine country I couldn’t help thinking things would get better.

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